Friday 6 July 2012

Film Review: Hip Hips Hooray (1934)

A return to the traditional rollicking, sinful, hilarious and suggestive Precode Hollywood with a Wheeler and Woolsey classic, "Hip Hips Hooray" (1934).

The Plot:

The movie begins with scantily clad chorus girls swaying and lounging in baths to the melody, “Keep Romance Alive”  sung by Ruth Etting.

If that’s not Precode at its best I don’t know what is!

The purpose of the show is to sell products for Maiden America Beauty Products Company.  It is during one of these product demonstrations that the Precode comedy staples, Bert Wheeler and Robert Wooley appear; dressed as Scottish men selling a new range of women’s flavoured lipsticks.

They are tricked by the beautiful Dorothy (Dorothy Lee) into selling the Maiden Company’s products and, to prevent becoming arrested for conducting business without a license, end up giving all the products away. They repay her with the taking from the lipsticks and Dorothy is hooked.

The next shoot is of the pair, destitute and sleeping in the back of a car they use to sell products off.  They boil coffee with the engine, have a food pantry under the bonnet of the car and house a chicken under the front seat for eggs.

Meanwhile, Dorothy goes back to Maiden Beauty and tells her boss, Miss Frisbee – the ever changing Thelma Todd – about the millionaire, beauty product selling extraordinaire couple.   Miss Frisbee, without questioning the story, wants to hire them immediately. They trick a business man into leaving his office and use it as a front for their non-existent beauty business. The plan works and they agree on a business partnership but not before a cute musical number and flirting between Dorothy and Wheeler and Miss Frisbee and Woolsey.  

They begin a successful partnership until two detectives come looking for the duo that broke into the businessman’s office and took a bag full of valuable securities (unknowingly of course). They must avoid capture by the detectives, keep their business going and try to win the two things they really want, Dorothy and Miss Frisbee.

 The Lowdown:

The movie’s title sums up its contents: lots of hips (not to mention legs) and plenty of hooray in the form of Woolsey and Wheelers slapstick and witty comedy. The duo play wonderfully charming entrepreneurs constantly running from the police and too trouble. Their style is not for everyone - let’s say it’s not subtle – but I found their juxtaposition of physical humour, sexy double-entendres and quirky habits purely entertaining. For example,  Wheeler’s weird obsession with bananas; he is always eating them and pulls them out of his pocket at high-pressure moments (I counted over five times), such as, meeting Dorothy for the first time and before a business meeting.

There are too many Precode moments to mention. Basically, there is so much blatant lingerie, dressing and undressing and suggestive nudity to make the devil blush. 

The director never misses an opportunity to show some Precode nudity, with nearly naked women – mostly in the form of secretaries in a bondage-style leather two piece – always moving in and out of shots. Another Precode moment: Woolsey talks the assistant girls into trying on the flavoured lipstick and letting them guess the flavour. They then take turns kissing all the girls until one spins him onto he knee and kisses him too passionately. He says dishevelled: “Public enemy number 1.”

This is continued in a love scene where Miss Frisbee appears to be undressing Woolsey while they sing the duet, “Just Keep On Doing What You’re Doing.”
I loved Thelma Tood as the shrewd head of the Maiden Company, Miss Frisbee, who strangely has an ever changing array of wigs and hair colours that always keeps it interesting. The voluptuous Wheeler and Woolsey principal, Dorothy Lee, is charming with her high-pitched tone, slightly-dumb expressions and suggestive lingerie.

The movie is faced paced and full of action. Wheeler and Woolsey are always full of witty remarks and they are always doing something interesting. I think it is one of the best Precode comedies I have seen!!

They drive away into the distance....

But not without some cute additions.

Quotes: (there was too many to mention)

Woolsey to Wheeler while in Scottish clothing:
     “That’ll be all of that Mcnitwit.”

When Wheeler bursts in on Woolsey talking to the almost-nude assistants without pants.
“Ah. The nudist colony.”

Blink and you'll miss it...


  1. Emma, thank you so much for adding my blog to those you follow, and for your lovely comments. I had seen a few films with Wheeler and Woolsey, none of which impressed me very much. I then watched "Hips, Hips, Hooray", and what can I say, it is perhaps the best film the duo made. I also like "Peach-O-Reno", which combines divorce and gambling but much less pre-code naughtiness.

  2. I haven't seen "Peach-O-Reno, I will have to check it out.

  3. Wheeler and Woolsey were a hoot, particularly the pre-code stuff. Hips Hips Hooray is awesome, and the screenshots you've included a great. Thanks for sharing!